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After a Heart Attack


Cardiac Rehab

Many hospitals have a rehabilitation program that you can participate in as an outpatient. Or your doctor may refer you to a heart center that runs a cardiac rehabilitation program. Taking part in a program offers several important benefits:

  • It will help speed up your recovery.
  • You will work with people who specialize in heart health. They will show you ways to make positive changes in your life that can protect and strengthen your heart.
  • You'll take part in activities that improve the way your heart functions and reduce your heart rate.
  • By following through outside of rehab on what you learn, you'll reduce your chance of developing complications or dying from heart disease.

Most cardiac rehab programs consist of three parts:

  • Exercise led by a certified exercise specialist.
  • Classes to teach you about risk factors for heart disease and ways to reduce those risks.
  • Support for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.


Making Changes to Reduce Heart Risk

Make these changes to help reduce your risk of heart attack and heart disease:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Manage diabetes and obesity.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Become more active.

Read on for some specific advice on how to make those changes.

Stop Smoking

If you smoke, the single most important thing you can do -- not just for your heart but for your entire system -- is to stop. It's also one of the hardest changes to make. But your doctor can help. Ask your doctor about:

  • A plan and guidance for giving up smoking.
  • Alternatives to tobacco, such as nicotine gum, patches, and prescription medicines.
  • Support groups and programs designed to help people quit.
  • Resources either in print or online that you can use to bolster your efforts.

Just because you've tried before doesn't mean you can't quit now. Most people have to quit a number of times before they quit for good.

It's important to insist that people not smoke in your home. And try to avoid places where smokers gather. Secondhand smoke is a risk factor for heart disease.

Treat High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

High blood pressure and high cholesterol damage your arteries. Over time, this increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Exercise, a healthy diet, and lifestyle changes can help. But they may not be enough by themselves. Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat one or both.

Treat Diabetes and Obesity

Diabetes and obesity are both major risk factors for heart disease and heart attack. If you have diabetes, it's important to work with your health care team to keep tight control over your blood sugar. This can be achieved through exercise, diet, and in some cases, medication. Work with your team to develop a management plan for diabetes.

Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes as well as heart disease. Your doctor can help you work out a plan that will let you control how many calories you take in while you increase physical activity to burn more calories. Your doctor might also refer you to a dietitian and an exercise program to help you lose weight.

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